Government must outline plans to combat imposed ‘flexible’ working hours

Ged Nash TD
17 June 2016

I welcome today’s publication of TASC research showing that ‘flexibility’ is being imposed by employers on more and more workers, across a range of different industry sectors. 

The research complements and updates findings in the report I published last November on zero and low hours contracts and their impact on employees. 

While last year’s study by the University of Limerick concentrated on retail, hospitality, education and health, TASC have included the construction, financial services and ICT sectors. 

The TASC report confirms that there is a growing number of people in precarious,  non-standard employment that is poorly paid or insecure or completely outside our employment protection laws. 

And precarious employment is not gender neutral: women are invariably over-represented in this type of work. 

The TASC findings include poor rates of pay combined with low and variable hours, little structured training and limited career progression, a dramatic growth in ‘bogus self-employed’ and also growth in low quality jobs in back-office customer service work and call centres.

Employers say they need a level of flexibility in order to operate their business. And I accept that. But flexible work is one thing. Insecure work is quite another. Not knowing from one week to the next what hours you might be working, what your pay packet will contain, what days you will need childcare or even when you can plan a family get-together.

The abusive relationships created by the casualisation of labour and imposed flexible work practices result not just in lower job and income security, and lower job satisfaction, but result also in workers becoming trapped in a succession of short-term, low quality jobs with inadequate social protection.

My and my party’s priorities are all about making sure the benefits of growth are fairly shared. We have no interest in ‘jobs at any price’ or the spread of casual labour at the lowest wages. This Government must not preside over an economic recovery that is fuelled by a ruthless race to the bottom.

Two weeks ago the Dáil unanimously accepted a Labour Party motion on workers’ rights. That motion outlined a programme of work to tackle abusive terms and conditions of employment – low pay, insecure hours, enforced and bogus self-employment.

It is now the clear will of the Dáil that the Government takes urgent steps to tackle bogus self-employment and precarious work and bring these frankly perverse abuses to an end.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor needs to tell us now what she plans to do.

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